The U.S. Army has deployed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to eastern Greece to assist in fighting massive fires that have scorched swathes of the Mediterranean country.
Three Black Hawks with 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division were deployed near the eastern coastal city of Volos, engaged in “fire suppression” efforts, according to U.S. European Command. The Army and the State Department are coordinating with the Greek government, operating in a supplementary role to the ongoing Greek response to the fires.
The first has been burning throughout Greece, scorching thousands of kilometers across the country including the mainland and the island of Rhodes. At least three people have been killed and thousands forced to evacuate, 20,000 on Rhodes alone. Deadly fires are also burning in Italy and Algeria; thousands in total have been forced to flee in the Mediterranean. As with much of the world, Greece has been experiencing a heatwave with record highs for the last two weeks, which has contributed to hundreds of fires breaking out across the country.
The 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division has only been in Greece recently; it arrived only in April, on a nine-month rotation in Europe that was meant to focus on training operations with partner nations. Now members of the Army are fighting a dangerous natural enemy.
Subscribe to Task & Purpose Today. Get the latest military news and culture in your inbox daily.
Greece has been mobilizing firefighting teams and equipment, trying to contain the blazes. As of the end of the week, it was gaining control over the fires.
“After 15 days of extreme weather phenomena, and a 10-day period with more than 600 fires, today is the first day that we are not in a critical state of alert,” Vassilis Kikilias, the Greek minister of climate crisis and civil protection, said on Friday, according to the BBC.
The fires have presented dangers beyond just the flames. The wildfires reached a Greek air force ammunition depot on Thursday, setting off several explosions as ordnance including bombs for Greek F-16 fighter jets ignited. The initial investigation found that the ammunition was too densely packed in the depot, rendering any fire safety systems unable to stop the explosion. Authorities are searching the surrounding area for any displaced munitions that might detonate.
Wildfires can set off ordnance. Last year wildfires in Slovenia set off unexploded munitions from World War I, endangering firefighters in the area.
It’s unclear if the U.S. military will deploy additional assets to combat the fires, which remain a serious threat.
The latest on Task & Purpose
- Marines fire two Parris Island leaders in charge of recruit training
- ‘They were just being good pilots’ — Inside the Osprey crash that killed 5 Marines
- Court martial begins for Marine drill instructor in ‘Crucible’ death of recruit
- Navy cargo ship runs aground in Bahrain
- U.S. Soldier ditched a flight home, ran across DMZ into North Korea, is now detained